Poet, novelist, and professor Al Young served as California Poet Laureate from 2005-2008. Young often read to musical accompaniment, and his poetry reflected his interest in music, specifically jazz and blues, as well as his life in California. His collections of poetry include Dancing: Poems (1969), The Blues Don’t Change: New and Selected Poems (1982), Heaven: Collected Poems 1956–1990 (1992), The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990–2000 (2001), and Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (2008). Young was a Jones lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford University from 1969 to 1979. He taught at a number of universities, and was appointed the 2002 Lurie Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at San José State University and McGee Professor of Writing at Davidson College in 2003. Young received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Al Young died in 2021, and due to illness was not able to attend the 2019 Gathering of Poets Laureate. We dedicate this site to his memory.
Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor at the University of Southern California and a former Poet Laureate of California. She is an author of 9 books of poems – most recent is Blue Rose, which is a 2019 Pulitzer Prize short-list finalist. Earlier books of poems include Twin Cities (2011), Sparrow (2003), from Random House, a Nat. Book Award finalist, and others. She has also published four novels, inc. Channeling Mark Twain from Random House, 2003. She is also an essayist and anthology editor. Her two collections of essays, include Married to the Icepick Killer: a Poet in Hollywood (S.F. Chronicle (Best Book) — and an anthology of poems, co-edited with Bob Holman – Crossing State Lines: an American Renga (from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) + two children’s poetry “handbooks” – The Magical Poetry Blimp Pilot’s Guide, 1 & 2. Many of her books have been NY Times Most Notable Books.
Herrera served as California Poet Laureate from 2012-2014. As the state poet laureate, Herrera created the i-Promise Joanna Project, an anti-bullying poetry project. Joanna was an elementary school girl who was bullied and killed in an after school fight in Long Beach. The first half asks students to send in poems about experiences and effects of bullying. The second half of the project is to take action in preventing bullying. Other projects included Answer Cancer with a Poem, Show Me Your Papers, and The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World. Herrera grew up in California as the son to migrant farmers, which he has commented strongly shaped much of his work. He is the author of thirty books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children. His collections of poetry include Every Day We Get More Illegal (City Lights, 2020), Notes of the Assemblage (City Lights, 2015), and Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008). In 2014, he released the nonfiction work Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes (Dial). His book Jabberwalking, a children’s book focused on turning your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry, came out in 2018. In 2015 Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed the 21st United States Poet Laureate, the first Mexican American to hold the position.
Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed poet and writer. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia was born in Los Angeles of Italian and Mexican descent. The first person in his family to attend college, he received a B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford and an M.A. from Harvard in Comparative Literature. For fifteen years he worked as a businessman before quitting at forty-one to become a full-time writer. Gioia has published five full-length collections of verse, most recently 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016), which won the Poets’ Prize as the best new book of the year. His third collection, Interrogations at Noon (2001), was awarded the American Book Award. Gioia is best known as a central figure in the revival of rhyme, meter, and narrative in contemporary poetry. Critic William Oxley has called Gioia, “probably the most exquisite poet writing in English today.” Gioia served as the California State Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2019. During his tenure he became the first laureate to visit all 58 counties of California. In 2020, The Huntington Library acquired Gioia’s papers and documents, including his work as a poet, through fastidiously maintained drafts of poems and essays from his books, his correspondence, and materials representing his achievements as an advocate for poetry and the arts at the NEA and as the California Poet Laureate. The archived materials include footage and information from 2019 Gathering of Poets Laureate.